All you wanted were banana chips. It seemed a simple enough request. You wanted to slip in the store, buy your snack, successfully avoid contact with the cute check out clerk, and leave with your sweatpants intact.
But that's not what happened.
You walked into the store and grabbed a basket; headed down the aisles where your treasure lay. As you walked, you became eerily aware that not a single person besides you and the workers, cute clerk included in that mix, are even in the store. That could have something to do with the whipping blizzard outside, but maybe there's some football game everyone's watching that you missed out on.
You kept walking down the aisle, slippered feet padding softly along the store's tiled and germ sufficient floor. There was such an air of unspoken warning in the air that your hands tingled as you gripped the cart tighter and tighter. What was going on? Where were the usual crazy late night shoppers? The big families towing along seven children because they didn't have time to shop earlier in the week? The quiet old man who's there because his daughter forgot about him again? The teenagers who were too cool to party? The teenagers coming back from said party? The... people who really really wanted banana chips at three in the morning? Where was the whole underground cult you had come to know as Walmart after midnight?
They were too scared to face the blizzard, and now you were alone.
Did that make you the craziest of all, or were you now the only sane one? After all, what could a little bit of snow do?
You chuckled to yourself and shook off the impending doom feeling. The corner turned, you grabbed your chips, and started back towards the store's exit to check out. Then you stopped. There was someone behind you, watching your every move. You kept walking, not wanting to acknowledge their presence, but then they call out your name.
Your ever loving name.
How did they know you?
You hoped your hair didn't have spiders in it. You hoped you remembered to wash the chocolate milk stains off your shirt. You hoped to high heavens you didn't smell like kitty litter and desperation. You smiled and turned around.
"Hi, there." You waved a hand, the one that wasn't losing blood from gripping the grocery cart so intently.
There was a small child standing in front of you, a large, head lolling baby doll perched tight in her arms. You wanted to run away very, very quickly, but you didn't. You didn't run because when you turned around to get the jalapeño salad out of that funhouse carnival, you found yourself looking up at a full sized clown. They honked their bright red nose, and you whirled back around to face the baby doll girl.
"Mommy said you'd be a good playmate."
"Uh, no, actually, I'm very boring." The little girl's eyes flashed. You smiled again. A saw turned on behind you and you expected it to be the clown but no, someone else had joined the party. A very thin, very shrouded in black and terrifying someone who kind of looks like they want to saw you in half and eat your liver. "And I'm sure my liver tastes like crap, to be honest. Uh," you grabbed the bag of chips, "Do you guys like chips?"
The little girl's baby doll fell from her arms. "Suzy! No!" She screamed, and you jumped back into the clown's arms and screamed, and the dude with the saw started laughing, and the clown just kept on honking their darn nose.
The doll stood up and you buried your face in the clown's colorfully quilted jumper. Was this the end, you thought to yourself? Were you going to die at Walmart because your cravings for dried fruit were too strong, too compelling to overcome? Was it your destiny to be whatevered to death by a possessed doll with your face buried in the chest of a clown you had never even met before, who's only useful function seemed to be having sturdy arms? It must have been all the juggling, but you didn't care. You honestly did not give a single salt rock lamp from Costco's about this clown's sturdy arms. You cared, though, about the approaching doll, the frantic child trying to contain the demonic powers of said doll, and the whirring saw buzzing in your ears.
"Help me help me help me," you whispered against impressively soft fabric, "I don't want to die here. I didn't even get to eat my chips."
The clown stroked your hair and you didn't even tell them to stop. You just really didn't want to watch that doll get any closer.
The tiny footsteps stopped.
The saw stopped.
Your heart almost stopped when you looked up.
It was the clerk of your orange filled dreams! They had smashed the baby doll with your bag of banana chips! You jumped down from the clown's safe arms.
"Thank you so much!"
The clerk and the clown both said, "You're welcome!"
The guy with the saw stalked off to go buy his wife some chocolate, and the little girl's mom came by and, shaking her head, told her that next time one of her dolls tried to kill someone, they'd have to stop buying from historical museums.
"I really can't stay." You did have three more seasons of that Australian farmer dating show you started watching while folding socks the other day. For some reason, though, you didn't want to leave.
"But baby it's cold outside..." The clerk said, getting back to your cart with a new bag of banana chips.
"I gotta go away..."
"This is not three in the morning karaoke." The clown wasn't very cheerful for a clown, but they had been rejected by the local clown college that morning and they weren’t in the mood for festivities. They had come to Walmart to buy an obscenely large bucket of bleach so that they could dump it over their head and their clothes, once so vibrant and full of life, would be as empty and blank as they now were.
"Um, guys?" The cute clerk pointed at the floor. The pieces of doll were moving, coming back together as though magnetically pulled by some unseen force.
You grabbed the clerk's hand and pulled the clown in front of both of you, hoping their cynical views on karaoke would send enough bad energy at the doll to throw her back to her grave.
But it was too late, because the doll had been abandoned one too many times.
She was not interested in playtime any longer. She wanted human blood to drip from her painted lips. She wanted revenge. She wanted to rip you, your new clerk hero, and the clown to pieces, and it seemed like there was nothing you could do to stop her. For the second time that night or morning or whatever three am classifies as, you were holding onto someone you didn't know and praying they would have enough strength to let you, you know, not die.
A tiny ceramic hand reached out and tapped your ankles. You clutched the clerk AND the clown so close to you you could feel their heartbeats behind their rib cages. The clerk smelled like apple banana shampoo. The clown had pretty eyes. You tried to refocus your attention on the baby doll's hand on your ankles.
The doll managed to make even the simplest of words strike fear into your heart. You would have told the clerk to call 911 on their little walkie talkie, but how believable would the scenario be? You jumped up and down, still holding both clerk and clown in arms, and shook the baby doll off your ankles. Great. Now she was even more angry, and you were going to get the worst part of the stick because you dared to kick her.
The clown started singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” under their breath and the clerk hummed along beside you. You said, “Stop singing! We’re about to die!”
“Suzy!” The little girl who had abandoned her doll had now escaped her mother and was hauling the porcelain monster back into her arms. “No!” She whacked her upside the broken head. “Bad bad doll!”
You watched her leave the aisle; watched the little girl leave while her doll’s manic black eyes rolled back in her head and she opened her mouth and howled, louder than all the clown’s nose’s honking, louder than the sound of banana chips busting all over the floor, and even louder than your own frantic sobs.
You let go of your new friends. At least, you were assuming they were your friends seeing as you did almost die with them not once but twice. The clown stared at you and readjusted their wig, probably thinking you pathetic for crying, and smelling like kitty litter, and not having washed the stains off your shirt.
“I’m sorry,” you blubbered, “I got scared and you were the only two people around.”
The clerk rolled their eyes. “You still have to pay for those chips I broke for you, you know.”
“Uh, that is not what I call quality customer service!”
The clown shook their head at both of you. “I’ll pay for the chips.”
You felt so happy to have had the fortune to meet this kind soul, this generous clown.
Too bad the banana chips were the only thing keeping your raging vampire compulsions in check.
Too bad it had been more than a week since you last had them to crunch instead of the soft bones of a nice, innocent mortal.
Too bad the doll wasn’t the only killer in the store that night.